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Embracing the Learning Curve: Why Legaltech should educate, not just automate

How often do we wish we had a magic something or other to get us from ‘a’ to ‘b’? Well in technology, particularly in the world of document reformatting and restyling, your wish is our command. If you want a magic button that takes you from a mess of a document to one that is ready to whizz out the door, you can have it. But as we know from the fairy tales, there is always a twist, and the easiest solution is not often the best one. Sometimes in the long run, it’s not even the fastest.

Magic Button v User-controlled automated process

Using tools based on technology such as robotic process automation, you can in theory reformat and restyle a document so that you simply click a button to get to a version that looks great and is ready to share. You have no idea how you got there, or what the changes were, but it sure was quick.

The alternative is a user-controlled automated process that takes you through the various stages and shows you the changes. You still get to click buttons to automate the process, as opposed to battling with Word, but you can see comments alongside each change in the document, and you have the option to agree or disagree with them.

So why do we think you should stick with the slightly longer user-controlled automated approach? Based on our decades of working with lawyers and documents, here’s why…

Lawyers are risk averse

Lawyers are risk averse, it’s what makes them good at their job. It’s also something that with a new generation of generative AI coming down the track we are going to think about in a fresh context.   The fact is that if a lawyer isn’t comfortable with how changes have occurred, they go back and read the original document and compare it to the new version manually.

Lawyers want eyes on every step of the journey, it’s why they use track changes and version control. And that’s because it is vital to make sure that errors don’t creep in.

Institutional habits can make the difference between success and failure. In his famous book Atomic Habits, James Clear provides lots of examples of how a series of small habits cumulatively make an exponential difference. He gives an example of the Japanese railway system, which is regarded as one of the best and safest in the world. That is since they introduced the system of ‘pointing and calling’, whereby each operator follows a ritual of pointing at signals and calling what they see, for example ‘The signal is green’, or ‘All clear!’ A habit that might seem a little silly has reduced errors by 85% and accidents by 30%. It raises the level of awareness and means that people don’t get lazy.

Continuous learning and education

Why on earth are we talking about the Tokyo railway in a legal technology blog? Because institutional knowledge, habits, and learning and education happen for a reason, and technology should assist, not eradicate habits that are designed to prevent mistakes.

We have worked with hundreds of law firms over the years, but one UK top 100 law firm in particular jumps out because their IT director tested their personal assistants’ knowledge of Word and found it to be very poor. He observed that if employees – whether they be PAs or lawyers – are given shortcuts, they have no understanding of native Word. That doesn’t matter right up to the point that the button doesn’t work. Users need a better understanding of how technology works, even if that process is significantly speeded up by shortcuts.

The value of user-controlled oversight at Kutana+Brochet

At Kutana+Brochet, our software prioritises learning and understanding over blind automation. In summary, here’s why we believe this approach is so important:

  • Understanding the ‘Why’ and ‘How’: Automatic corrections obscure the reasoning behind changes. Our tool, by contrast, demonstrates each adjustment, accompanied by explanatory comments. This transparency ensures that users not only see what has changed but also understand why.
  • Building Expertise: The process of reviewing each suggested change is educational. It helps legal professionals, particularly secretaries, to develop a deeper mastery of Microsoft Word’s complexities. This knowledge is fundamental and goes beyond mere efficiency.
  • Maintaining Control and Quality: In the legal world, every detail matters. Automated solutions can overlook the subtleties of legal formatting and language. Our approach places control in the hands of the professionals, ensuring the final document meets the highest standard of accuracy.
  • Risk Management: Lawyers are inherently risk averse. The uncertainty of not knowing which changes an automated tool has made is unacceptable in legal practice. Our user-controlled method allows for a considered review, ensuring that no unintended alterations slip through.
  • The Cost of Over-Automation: The hidden costs of over-automation, such as the time spent verifying automated changes or correcting unforeseen errors, are often overlooked.

It’s all about a balanced approach

We understand the appeal of quick fixes, we create a lot of them. However, we firmly believe that the right way isn’t always the so-called quickest. Our software is designed to strike a balance between efficiency and education, ensuring that legal professionals are not just passive users of technology but active participants in their document creation process. This approach, we believe, is not only more aligned with the meticulous nature of legal work but also essential for the continued growth and adaptability of legal professionals in an ever-evolving technological landscape.

To find out more give Rob Simcock a call on +44 (0)333 202 0971 or email rob@brochet.co.uk